Monday 29 May 2017

Girl (16) and boyfriend 'plotted suicide attack at Eiffel Tower'

French paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris
French paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris

David Chaza

A 16-year-old girl, her boyfriend and another man have been charged with terrorism offences over what police suspect was a plot to attack the Eiffel Tower.

The girl, named only as Sara, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Thomas Sauret, both converts to Islam, were charged with making and possessing explosives found at the couple's home.

They were also charged with criminal association for terrorist purposes, along with Malik Hammami (33), a convicted drug dealer and thief who is suspected of helping them.

Police believe their arrests in the southern city of Montpellier on Friday foiled an "imminent" attack.

Sara reportedly told investigators she regretted her involvement and broke into tears during questioning.

She claimed Mr Sauret had insisted she take part as a condition for marrying her, sources close to the investigation said.

The couple had planned an Islamic wedding ceremony before he blew himself up at the Eiffel Tower or another tourist site.

Sara was then to have travelled to Syria to join Isil as a "martyr's widow", using a fake passport supplied by Hammami.

She told psychologists that she converted to Islam because her Croatian father, who fought in the war against Bosnia, hated Arabs, according to a court-ordered assessment in 2014.

It was carried out as her parents, who were divorcing, fought a court battle over custody of the teenager.

She spent long hours on the internet and first contacted Mr Sauret online.

He appeared on the intelligence radar as a potential security risk after the 'Charlie Hebdo' attacks in 2015. Then working in eastern France, he said he wanted to join the jihadist movement and go to Syria to discover "real life".

Acquaintances said he stopped drinking and smoking cannabis.

After a failed attempt to leave France for Syria, carrying little more than a Koran, a prayer mat and €1,300, he was placed under house arrest at his father's home in December 2015.

After his release last year, he joined Sara in Montpellier. The girl's mother refused to accommodate him.

Unemployed by then, he slept in the cellar of her building for a time before moving into a flat lent by an acquaintance, where the couple were arrested.

Sara's mother insisted that the teenager was innocent.

"He (Mr Sauret) manipulated us all. He introduced himself into our lives," she said.

The couple, who reportedly tried to recruit 10 other people for the attack, had been under close surveillance for several weeks.

After Sara posted a video pledging allegiance to Isil and they were spotted buying ingredients for explosives last week, police moved in.

Hammami, a father of two estranged from his wife, was also under surveillance after posting extremist messages online.

Irish Independent

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